"But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
This is a difficult subject for the man who is alive unto the world but dead unto God. The whole of Scripture is a mystery to him until he is spiritually awakened. True believers are circumcised of heart, that is, are in a right state of spirit and mind before God.
What does circumcision of heart mean?
To put it in a nutshell, circumcision of the heart is 'holiness.' It implies being cleansed from sin … "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). As a consequence, the believer has the virtues of Christ, and aims to fulfil the text which says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
The circumcised of heart have humility. Humility is seeing what the flesh really is and capable of. It shows us that, even in our best estate, we are sinful and full of vanity. But for the Holy Spirit it would be impossible for us to think one good thought toward God. We do not have the sufficiency to help ourselves or to renew our souls in righteousness and holiness. Paul uses the term "lowliness of mind" (Philippians 2:3) when referring to humility, and encourages us to have Christ as our example … "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). The apostle Peter says much the same thing … "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). True humility is a product of following Christ.
The circumcised of heart have true faith. It is the faith that is "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). All things are possible to such a believer because "the eyes" of his "understanding" has been "enlightened" (Ephesians 1:18). This faith has the assurance that Christ is truly Saviour and Lord, and is enabled to bear witness with these words … "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job 19:25) and "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
The circumcised of heart have strong consolation through hope. This means that the testimony of their own spirit confirms that they belong to God … "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward" (2 Corinthians 1:12). The Holy Spirit works in them a clear and cheerful confidence that they are right with God. They are assured of the crown of glory in Heaven, and, by the mercy of God, preservation and blessing while they wait. This person knows that God gives strength for the race set before him, and power to be more than conqueror (Hebrews 12:1; Romans 8:37). He knows that affliction and hardship may come, but relies upon God to see him through them all.
The circumcised of heart have godly love. This is the fulfilment of the royal law … "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself" (Luke 10:27). We are to cleave to the Lord and make Him our one desire, but it is not possible to love God if we detest others. This commandment should affect our every thought, word and deed.
A plain rule to live by
The distinguishing mark of those who are not circumcised is that they seek only that which gratifies the flesh. They will not allow the Lord to reign over them … "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).
If we do not continually feel that, without the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing to please God, then we are not right with Him. The one who is circumcised of heart earnestly desires more of God each day.
If we are led by our senses, appetites and passions, then we are blind men walking in spiritual darkness. The circumcised of heart "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen" (2 Corinthians 4:18). His faith in Christ governs all of his actions, conversations, desires and plans. Instead of walking by sight, he walks by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Instead of being led by the world, he is led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).
We should rejoice in God for all He has done, knowing that there awaits us an "exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). We should have that joyful assurance which accompanies true faith. It is wonderful to know that we have an "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven" for us (1 Peter 1:4).
There will always be those who think they will obtain the promise without dealing faithfully with God. These blasphemers persuade themselves that they are guiltless. Such a vain hope! Every child of Adam must come by the "strait gate" (Matthew 7:13), "take up his cross" (Matthew 16:24), and be "sanctified" (1 Corinthians 6:11) to win the prize.
True circumcision of heart requires that we "present" our bodies as a "living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1). Such a sacrifice must be continuously offered upon the flames of holy love.